This blog post’s a little late, to be honest. The app’s been live for weeks now – although there’s still ten days or so to get your entry in.
(Also, it’s pretty much autumn now, but hey, I’ve been busy!)
Street Summer is Channel 4’s season celebrating the best of urban culture, from graffiti to skateboarding to hip-hop. The part of it that we’ve made is called the Rap Beatbox Choir, and it’s a brave attempt to break a world record by harnessing the power of rappers, MCs and beatboxers from across the web to record a brand new track.
Composer Paul Gladstone Reid has created an exclusive track for the app, called “We Are The People”, created entirely with the human voice. It features singers, rappers and beatboxers together to create a modern-day choir performing a conscious hip-hop track.
The Rap Beatbox Choir app lets users explore the track, turning on and off its thirteen component parts to see how each of them sounds individually and how they affect the track as a whole. We expected this to be good fun – but it’s actually really good fun!
Read more about the work that went into creating the Rap Beatbox Choir after the jump…
There’s a great range of performances, talent and styles in there, from Beardyman’s beatboxing to Paul’s singing and solos from a whole range of hip-hop stars like Akala and Miss Dynamite. It’s fascinating separating one of these performances from the rest and listening in detail to the lyrics, beats or rhythms.
Making the interface for this complicated interaction involved some interesting challenges, such as how to load, sync and play thirteen individual YouTube videos through a Flash interface. The TV metaphor for the interface worked well, providing a nice grungy feeling to the app that fitted in with the urban theme while giving us a nice intuitive way to present the user with so many individual screens and controls.
The app went through a few different designs, styles and ways of working. As the concept evolved we went from a mixer style interface to an audio-editing suite to the current version. Each version brought its own difficulties, but in every version we fought to keep the interface as clean, simple and useable as possible, as the app was in real danger of being so complicated and fiddly that it would have been overwhelming to the average user.
Then there was the added task of designing an interface around a track that hadn’t yet been recorded! While we’d been able to brief Paul on the general outline of what we were trying to achieve, we knew there was going to be some serious creative business going on when they were in the studio, writing and recording, so our interface had to be solid yet flexible enough to handle the finished track.
On the whole, I think we’ve done a good job of it, too. We’ve had feedback from people who have little interest in (or even a positive dislike of) either hip-hop or fun things on the internet who’ve had a play with it and enjoyed themselves, which must be good. The comments from users on YouTube, where the app’s hosted, have been positive as well – and what better feedback can you get than a good response from your audience?
Have a go, and let us know what you think!